The way I see it, there are three types of guilt. Guilt complexes, guilty consciences and the most fun of the three, guilty pleasures. Guilty consciences arise when you’ve done something you know you shouldn’t, and a guilt complex comes from anticipating a guilty conscience. A guilty pleasure, then, is something you do to calm your guilt complex down. It’s the solution to everything.
Apples and guilt go way back. Biblical back. (Let’s not get too hung up on whether apples really are Edenic. Persimmon, perschmimmon. We’re sticking to modern-day symbolism, here.) It was the fruit that cost the garden, and introduced the very first guilty conscience to the world. And we all know the three-tiered progression of guilt that follows.
Luckily, apples are their own solution. Fast forward hundreds of thousands of years to a little kitchen in Berlin where the apple became a guilty pleasure: Sensuous and silky apple custard resting on top of a crumbling butter cookie crust. The earth, it trembles.
I’ve been on a bit of a custard craze, having made my very first custard just a few short weeks ago in the form of lemon bars. What an interesting collection of ingredients, what a sumptuous result. Dense and creamy, sweet and bright. A new custard-lover was born.
Never much of a baker, custard was so easy to make I thought even I could experiment with it. What if, for instance, I left out the lemons and substituted some of my overflowing supply of slowly-going-bad apples? What if I thought of the filling as a custard version of apple pie? What if the base was a riff on a graham cracker crust made with butter cookies instead?
I’ve never shirked away from experimenting with dinner, but baking has always seemed like something of a mystery to me. The measurements are so precise, the alchemy timed. I’m pleased to say that the apple led me to my very first baking experiment. And I think the subjects generally agree – it was a success. The delicious, guilty pleasure kind.
Baked Apple Custard with Butter Cookie Crust
If you can’t find butterkeks at your local grocery store, substituting graham crackers would do quite nicely. Instructions for the crust are the same.
For the crust:
2 cups (200 g) crushed butterkeks
¼ cup (50 g) sugar
11 tbsp. (150 g) butter
For the custard:
4 soft-cooking apples
½ cup (100 g) sugar
8 tbsp. (115 g) butter
¼ tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. cornstarch
¼ tsp. salt
First, bake the apples. Preheat oven to 395ºF (200ºC). Line a baking tray with baking paper. Wash and halve apples, then place face down on the baking paper. Bake for about ½ hour, or until the apples are soft. Set aside to cool. Turn oven down to 375ºF (190ºC).
While the apples are cooling, make the crust: With a spoon, toss finely crushed butterkeks with sugar. Melt butter in a small saucepan, then pour over the crumbs. Stir thoroughly. Your mixture should just stick together when pressed between your fingers. If your mixture seems dry, you may need to melt another 1-2 tbsp. of butter. Press mixture into a shallow rectangular baking dish and place in the oven for 7 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Turn the oven temperature down to 345ºF (175ºC).
To make the custard, remove the stems and seeds from your cooled apples and place the apple flesh in a large mixing bowl. Add sugar, butter, vanilla, and cinnamon, then beat with an electric mixer until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, cornstarch, and salt, then beat another 1 minute, until well blended. Pour custard mixture into the cooled butterkeks crust.
Bake at 345ºF (175ºC) for 40 minutes or until the center has set. Allow to cool before cutting.